Blame it on the boogie?
Another year has almost passed and we are now entering the coveted party season where we just wanna dance the night away, lose ourselves in boogie wonderland and come the next morning we just want to blame it on the boogie. Of course this can only mean that Just Dance 2016 is on the market but is it time to evacuate the dancefloor? Read on to find out!
Game: Just Dance 2016
(Review copy provided by publisher)
You may recall last year I took a look at Just Dance 2015. For those who want to refresh their memory or to see what last year had to offer you can check it out here. Now the Just Dance series has seen many iterations over the years with a model that does not rock the boat, still retaining its iconic visuals and delivering over 40 new choreographed tracks to humiliate yourself to.
As always the song selection is filled with a variety of pop tracks, including top chart hits like Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor and Hey Mama by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha and Afrojack. There are a few old classics like You’re the One That I Want from the musical Grease to a few more comical tracks such as the Balkan Blast Remix of the Angry Birds theme (last year we had Tetris which in my opinion is superior). Vocaloid fans can also rejoice as Hatsune Miku finally makes an appearance with Ievan Polkka.
The visuals themselves remain largely unchanged from previous entries, with dancers adorned in vibrant, eccentric costumes and pop inspired backdrops which will mostly be overlooked as you focus on copying the dancer on-screen as if they were your own reflection, whilst bystanders focus will be on you prancing around like a raving lunatic! One aspect that has been improved upon since last year is the menu layout. 2015 had you scrolling through a long list of song tiles before you finally reached the different modes and sections which proved to be a rather tedious affair. This year however the menu has been simplified, with game modes more organised. As you access each mode, all songs and options have been set out in categorised, tiled rows which makes navigating much smoother.
This release also makes the Kinect control obsolete, removing the ability to navigate using hand gestures in favour of the controller or making use of the Just Dance Controller App (which they claim to be a new feature where in actuality this is a returning feature form last year). I do howbeit have a few flaws to pick out. Throughout all the games modes there seems to be no way to filter through the many community features. For example, if you wanted to view others performances to a particular song there is no way to single this out. Instead you must trawl through the various tiles until you find the one you seek, if it is there at all as these seem to be randomised. At times I also found that loading screens took longer than I would have liked but other than this the graphics run smoothly and sparkle like a disco ball.
This year Just Dance 2016 introduces 5 new game modes which include new features, some of which are revamped from last year. There are two ways in which you can play, the first is by using the Kinect sensor to tack your full body movements, second is the Just Dance Controller App which is perfect for those without a Kinect or those who want simpler tracking or do not have as much dancing room. This mostly tracks your hand movements by using your mobile gyro sensors however I often found the app to be less responsive to my movements and less effective to my point score. I also encountered connectivity issues between the app and the console itself, though it is unclear if this is due to connectivity issues or with the app itself. It does appear that Ubisoft have acted on player feedback over the past year with the introduction of multiple Dancer Cards. Last year offered only 1, meaning you had to share your profile with your family or friends. These cards act as your player profile, collecting your progression and scores which can be personalised with various avatars. New avatars can be unlocked by completing songs and objectives or with mojo points earned through dancing.
The first and main mode is Dance Party. This offers 2 categories. Rival is your classic gameplay mode where you can dance against friends and see who can get the highest score. Scores are ranked as a number and stars where your performance is everything. The more synchronised your movements and timing are to the on-screen dancer the higher your score. You can see how well you perform at the top of the screen by words such as perfect, OK or an X if you fail. Dance is not the only way to increase your score. Karaoke can also be a part of your performance with lyrics shown on screen for you to sing away to for extra mojo. Coop is a new feature for a more friendlier experience, where you can work together to reach the highest score by collecting jewels. Some tracks will offer you more variety in terms of roles. For example Let’s Groove by Equinox Stars offers 3 roles, allowing you to pick the part you play which in turn offers different moves to perform. Tracks and routines have varying intensities. Some may have you jumping and running about in a circle, others may have you on the floor or sitting on a table! These variations can also be unlocked as alternate versions of songs using mojo. A car version of Teacher by Nick Jonas as an example will have you sitting down as if you were driving. (Please do not attempt this routine whilst actually driving on the road!)
The second new mode is Dance Quest. Here you embark on a journey of adventure and exploration, completing a series of songs against ai opponents varying in difficulty from beginner to dance master. The base game offers 17 quests to complete, with the need of conquering one before you can advance. Sadly there is no option to play this against online opponents around the world which would have added a greater sense of competition. Before I go on to the more competitive modes (for which I have a huge criticism for) I shall explain the more singular modes. Sweat and Playlists is an improvement on the previous Playlist mode. For those that like a good workout and like to keep track of calories this is for you. Here you can dance to pre-built playlists or you can make your own. Each list will display a total dance time along with an estimated calorie burn count, allowing you to customise your workout. Believe me this game will certainly make you sweat! Though a word of caution, do go at a steady pace and try not to overexert yourself, not only will you look as red as a tomato but your muscles will certainly feel sore the next day!
Showtime mode offers you the opportunity to choreograph your own routine whilst singing along. This puts together a rather psychedelic video with pre designed effects which you can save, share on Facebook or upload to JDTV and humiliate yourself or your friends! Just Dance TV is the place to go if you wish to look in awe at others perfect performances or have a chuckle. These range from the most recent autodances captured and shared at the end of each track to the most popular showtimes others have created. This is where I feel Just Dance starts to let itself down. The Just Dance community is vast, full of perfectionists and also of many having fun, even in cosplay! However there seems to be no real order to the selection you can view despite the few categories and as I mentioned at the start, there is no way to filter your search. You can however like and share your favourites.
So onto the somewhat more competitive side. World Video Challenge is a new mode that does allow you to compete against other Just Dancers in some form. Here you can compete against pre-recorded performances in a battle. Win or lose you are free to re-challenge your opponent which is put into a new list so you can see just who you beat or was burned by. Now this is where I find myself reflecting upon the previous release and the future of these series and am left lamenting. Just Dance 2015 contained a mode called World Dance Stage which in my opinion was the best feature and experience Just Dance can offer for online play. This mode allowed you to dance alongside Just Dancers all around the world in real time as an individual or in groups, choosing your side. Here you would compete to climb the learderboard, the perfect place to show your competitive nature and battle it out to a voted track. This mode even featured guest appearances! I spent most of my time here, unable to accept defeat or just simply having too much fun to stop. There was a more real connection to the Just Dance community. So it baffled me as to why this wonderful online multiplayer experience was excluded. Or so I though. This decision was made made even worse by this feature only being available for those who purchase Just Dance 2016 on previous gen consoles. In my opinion it just makes no sense! This was the only real online multiplayer experience and to me personally the best mode to keep me coming back. If it was included last year and is on the old gen versions, then why not the current gen too?
To further deepen my disappointment is the introduction of Just Dance Unlimited, a new subscription based service providing access to a library of over 150 songs, including tracks from past titles and new exclusives such as Cheerleader by OMI. On top of paying the retail price for the game itself you must then pay an additional cost of £5.59 for 1 month, £11.99 for 3 months and £31.99 for 12 months if you want access to this catalogue of songs. Whilst Just Dance 2016 has a few chart songs included, overall I find the selection lacking in variety and quality and as a party game, Unlimited offers all the songs you would normally expect to find on such a game without having to pay extra. They appear on your lists, taunting you with an unlimited banner showing you the fun you could have if you pay more. This for me put the final nail in the coffin. I would be happier to pay a little more for the game if it allowed me access to all these songs from the start rather than having to pay almost double for the privilege. Even the option to carry over songs from last year if you had purchased it would have been nice, although you could bring out last years copy if you still have it.
Just Dance as a series is an excellent party game for this season, providing equal measures of competitive play and fun and laughter. If you are looking for something to entertain yourself and your guests then this is perfect. However, just Dance 2016 fails to deliver the same enjoyment that 2015 brought me. Of course there were improvements with navigation and layout but overall it fails to offer anything new and substantial. Looking to the future of the series I feel a physical release is now obsolete, with Unlimited the best way forward at replacing the yearly iteration. A free digital download with the ability to pick a subscription may yield better results, allowing you to purchase as and when you need for a party or at a cheaper yearly cost with the benefit of an instant vast library compared to the limited tracks per disc.